The Last Minivan Battle? Orders Open for the AWD Chrysler Pacifica
Seating, fuel economy, and traction: these are the three areas in which the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica and all-new Toyota Sienna will do battle, though neither of these vehicles is a direct match for the other.
In the shrinking minivan segment, the urge to offer everything a buyer might want has led us to this point. Orders opened for the all-wheel drive Pacifica on Friday — a product that Chrysler hopes will give would-be crossover buyers food for thought. In the Toyota corner, standard hybrid power and available AWD greets buyers for 2021. Similar beasts, but not at all identical.
Will seating decide the victor?
It could come down to that. But back up a moment first. The model now available for ordering is not the redesigned 2021 Pacifica, but the 2020 Pacifica AWD Launch Edition — a driveshaft-equipped current-generation vehicle kitted out in Touring L guise (with S Appearance package) that arrives in the third quarter of 2020. Seems Chrysler couldn’t wait to get this feature on the market.
The Pacifica boasts two pros and one con, in that its AWD system is a mechanical one, capable of sending 100 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels, yet still capable of handling the brand’s Stow ‘n Go seating. Make those captain’s chairs disappear. The model’s drawback is that AWD cannot be combined with hybrid propulsion.
Toyota’s gambit is to make every Sienna a hybrid (though not a plug-in), with AWD offered through the addition of an extra electric motor placed atop the rear axle. Eighty percent of the vehicle’s driving force can funnel into those back wheels, operating independent of the engine. No mechanical connection here. Greater efficiency come standard in this rig, but the Sienna can’t make its seats sink into the floor.
However, the center second-row seat can be removed, and the cabin can be outfitted with captain’s chairs that not only slide fore and aft up to 25 inches, as well as side to side, but can also coddle passengers with a limo-like ottoman footrests. Comfort over versatility.
Which combo will win over buyers? That’s for the public to ultimately decide. In the meantime, the Pacifica AWD Launch Edition carries a lofty sticker of $40,240, with 2021 trims and pricing still unknown. Packing a new look and a greater level of standard safety features and convenience tech, the ’21 model arrives in the fourth quarter.
[Image: Fiat Chrysler, Toyota]
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